Twin Cities Mom Collective

What Not to Say to a Mom of One

mom of oneThis post was originally published in 2015

I have one child. It’s not by choice. I would have had more if my eggs had cooperated. Other moms have one child because, well, they chose to have one child. Whether by our own personal choice or biology’s limitations, we find ourselves at the same destination: single-child families. And that’s where people have opinions.

“He’ll be so lonely!”

“Don’t you want to give him a sibling?”

“Why don’t you adopt?”

“Ugh. It must be so easy to have just one! Want one of mine?”

These are all declarations that I and many other moms of one hear often. They’re insulting, ignorant, rude and hurtful – even if it is inadvertent. Strangers ask questions we don’t want to answer. Acquaintances make statements without knowing our stories. Even friends can unknowingly – or unthinkingly – drop a bomb now and then. So, next time you run across one of the growing number of moms with one child, instead of asking a seemingly innocent question or extending an uninformed judgment, maybe just offer a kind compliment instead.

9 Things to Never Say to a Mom of One

1. When are you going to give him/her a baby brother or sister?

The same day you realize my reproductive capabilities are of no concern to you. Maybe I don’t want a second child. Maybe I – as in my personal case – tried desperately to have another child but couldn’t. Maybe I’m days away from my third D&C and barely holding it together as I stand here talking to you, my high school classmate that I haven’t seen in ten years. If we have another baby, you can read about it on Facebook. Until then, please don’t ask.

2. Don’t you want him to have a sibling?

First, I wanted another baby. Not just a sibling for my son. Sure, it would be great to see my little guy grow into his role as a big brother. But I also know that blood does not guarantee best friends. Some siblings are besties forever and others are a bitter rivalry from the time the cord is cut. All this question does is assert your belief that all children should have a sibling…and makes me feel horrible.

3. Why did you decide to have just one child?

Well, I didn’t. But since I don’t know you all that well – if I did, you’d know my story by now. And if I did decide to only have one child, I’m pretty sure that’s a very, very personal decision that is really none of your business.

4. Have you thought about adoption?

Adoption? What is that? I’ve never heard of this adoption thing before! Please, tell me more. Sarcasm aside, adoption is a beautiful option for those who do pursue it and I fully support families who begin or grow through adoption. Keep in mind, many adoptive parents are also parents of one. What?! Mind. Blown. Whatever reasoning went into our decision not to go down this road is extremely personal and not open for discussion with anyone other than my significant other. So if that’s not you, then kindly MYOB.

5. Do you just have the one child?

My son is not “just” one child. He’s not less than. I’m not a mother by the skin of my teeth. Or balancing on the precipice of non-motherhood. There is no “just” when I fought biology with all my might to have this amazing little person in the first place. I don’t just have one child. I have one beautiful child. Plain and simple.

6. Your house must be so quiet and clean!

Oh, I’m sorry. You must have confused one with none. Because one child is still, well, a child. With toys. And noise. Like parents of two plus, we run the living room floor Lego gauntlet and wash crayon from the walls. Daniel Tiger is no less sing-y for one child than he is for four. And yogurt sticks? Don’t get me started on what they do to microfiber couches. So while we may not have the sibling giggles or the fighting, we do have a joyful noise (and a mess).

7. Well, you never know! My friend’s cousin’s college roommate did 17 rounds of IVF and 6 months after they gave up trying, POOF, she was pregnant!

Stop. Please, don’t ever say this to anyone who has been through infertility – mom of one or otherwise. While I’m happy for your friend’s cousin’s roommate, that story is about as helpful as a stake to the heart. I don’t want to hear about other people’s success stories. They hurt. And if a mom is a mom of one by choice (a frequent variant of this statement for these moms is, “you still have time!”), you’re basically saying she has made the wrong decision about stopping with one. Either way, please just keep those words to your self.

8. Aren’t you worried about him being selfish/spoiled?

BREAKING NEWS: Spoiled brat-itis can happen to anyone. Even children with lots and lots of siblings. In fact, multiple studies conducted over the past four decades have shown that single children are no more likely than those with siblings to show selfish/self-centered/spoiled personality traits. But that doesn’t make this myth any less hurtful. Every parent wants to raise a kind, caring, and loving child. Including parents of one.

9. It’s so hard having [insert number more than one] kids! Sometimes I envy you.

Hold on. First, if this is a mom of one thanks to infertility, you might as well slap her. I would run back-to-back ultramarathons followed by a slide down a razorblade into a tub of monkey spit if it meant I could have “the work” of a second child. Go ahead, envy me. I’ll send some of my heartache your way. Second, whether by choice or not, a single child is not easy. There’s no sending him off to the backyard for hours of play with a sibling or two. There’s no one else there to answer the insistent “play with me!” requests. There’s no buddy in the backseat to sing with on long drives. Sure, there’s no fighting but there are also no heated games of Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. Or puppet show partners. Mommy friends and play dates can also be harder to come by as other moms often look for age mates for all their kids. I rarely can chill on the bench at the park because with no other kids in sight, guess who gets to be the monkey bar buddy? I do love the time we spend together playing games, doing puzzles and kicking a ball in the backyard but man, sometimes I envy those moms with their own little soccer team.

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Lisa October 15, 2015 at 2:56 PM

BLESS YOU and this blog post! I am also a mother of “just” one not by choice. After almost 6 years of trying on our own, and infertility treatments, we were blessed with our daughter. However, she was born at 25 weeks and weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. Needless to say we were a little gun shy about the possibility of another. But after about 3 years we tried again with no luck.

#1 – It’s hard enough when adults ask you this question. It’s heart-wrenching when that question comes from your child who would love nothing better than to have a brother or sister. Even now that she’s 14, she’d love to have a sibling.

#4 – We’ve thought about that process too. We’ve met with adoption agencies, talked to foster families about that avenue but it just never worked out for us.

#9 – YES YES and YES!! Keeping an only child entertained is a different experience! While I don’t necessarily envy the fights among siblings, the built in playmate would be awesome 🙂

Kristin P. October 15, 2015 at 3:05 PM

So glad this resonated with you! Not that I would wish this heartache on anyone else but because it makes me feel a little less alone with my frustrations. 🙂

Jane October 16, 2015 at 6:04 PM

I’d never say any of those things to a parent of one but as a parent of three children under 5 yo don’t ever let me hear you complain about being tired or stressed out or really anything else…

KnoxMom October 18, 2015 at 8:40 PM

Because a mom of one can’t possibly be tired or stressed? I think you may have missed the point of the article . . .

KB October 23, 2015 at 8:12 PM

Jane, if that’s the case, as a parent of five kids who are all less than 18 months apart in age, I could tell you ‘don’t let me ever hear you complain about being tired or stressed out or really anything else.’ But I won’t, because everything is relative. And, also, because I am not a d!ck. I don’t have the market cornered on being tired or stressed, and neither do you. Parenting, though rewarding, is stressful and challenging in general, and that high horse you are sitting on right now is likely to give you hemorrhoids.

Great post, author!

Anna July 7, 2016 at 10:19 PM

Thank you!

Anna July 7, 2016 at 10:19 PM

As a mother of one, I find this insensitive. My daughter has the energy, strength and will power of about 4 children. No, I do not know the stress and frustration of chasing 3 children under 5…however, it can still be just as stressful and exhausting. I chose to only have one, just as you chose to have 3. I give you props for your daily dealings, but my life is not that much different than yours.

Tara July 8, 2016 at 4:16 AM

Oh Jane…..Jane, Jane, Jane ? I read your comment and was surprised that no one had replied, or so I thought until I hit ‘reply’ and was then able to see them (KnoxMom, KB and Anna – well said ladies!). Although you start by saying “I’d never say any of those things to a mother of one” (I was with you at this stage), you then completely digress to become, what appears to be, the spokesperson for “those people who SHOULDN’T say those things to a mother of one”. Your opinion and comments were ignorant, insensitive and judgemental. Did you actual read the article? Maybe you should jump off your high horse, plant your feet firmly back on the ground and re-read the article. Just a thought to ponder…..

Free Green Agent July 9, 2016 at 10:05 PM

“I’d never say these things to a mother of one”. *Proceeds to say judgmental, unprovoked things to a mother of one*
It ain’t a competition honey.
–From a mother of triplets

Becky October 18, 2015 at 7:51 AM

I hear the dismissive “just one” more often than not. It has made me feel like my mothering of one does not really count. In my case, having one child was a very conscious choice after enduring years of postpartum depression. Thankfully, I never hurt my child, but there were very dark nights and dark thoughts. I would never risk that on another child. I can physically bear another child-psychologically and spiritually, I’m not so sure.

Shari October 18, 2015 at 3:59 PM

Love reading this blog, I am a mom of #1 and I didn’t want anymore ( my husband did) and then we talked about having a baby again, my husband wanted a little girl and then we went over our finances, the fact that we don’t have a babysitter, the fact that I’m still a sahm and he is 6 years old, how impossible to find a job after 8:00 a.m and hoping to clock out before 2:30 p.m just so I can pick him up at 3:00, the fact we don’t live no where near family for a babysitter…the list can go on. But, we are happy and we have made the decision to not have anymore. Oh..Now that he is six years old, I still get ask to have him a brother or sister…Ummmh no , not now because I refuse to start over ( I and my husband barely have date nights or a romantic getaway)

Mom o one Florida October 18, 2015 at 11:15 PM

Gosh, right on the money in so many ways. Add to this a socially challenged child and now I’m begging parents for play dates just to keep my dd engaged. Ugh..

Melanie October 19, 2015 at 10:25 AM

As a mother of 3 – who started out dealing with infertility (the drugs, the shots, the miscarriages, etc.), then two unexpected surprise pregnancies who then went on to be a surrogate for a friend who could not have children – this article is kind of upsetting to me. I am sorry you were unable to have more children and it breaks my heart when people who truly want and deserve children cannot have them when there are people who should never be responsible for children who can have them so easily. I get it – been there done that. But you seem to have a huge chip on your shoulder. Are some of the people who ask these questions clueless, nosy or just downright rude? Yes! But not everybody who asks these things is. Some people are just trying to start a conversation, make a new friend, get to know you. Since you have a child, that is an obvious conversation starter. I am assuming they are human beings and subject to putting their foot in their mouth as well as the next human. I don’t understand why you have to get so hostile about it – and yes, your article is hostile. As a single mother of 3, I was often asked “insensitive” questions. Why are you single? Is it “just” you raising these kids alone because they really should have a father in their life? Don’t you want your children to have a father? Why didn’t you stay and try to make it work with their father? I would say these (and many of the other questions I have been asked over the years) are every bit as personal and probing as the questions you have been asked and they cut just as deep and hurt just as bad (and as much as your one child isn’t “just one” I am not “just one” either). Still, I didn’t feel the need to run out and right a hostile blog article about it degrading people for asking me these things or try to make them feel guilty for striking up a conversation. If I felt the need, at the time, I would politely and respectfully let them know that I had my reasons, they were valid and that was all they needed to know. Once again, I am truly sorry you were unable to have all of the children you wanted to have. If I could change that for you, I would. But I don’t think the problem is with the people delivering the questions. Be happy you have one because there are several people out there who have none and would be perfectly happy dealing with all the questions you get asked because – shocker – they are getting asked questions that hurt as well. It’s called life and dealing with other human beings.

Teresa October 22, 2015 at 12:27 PM

I’m tired of these articles of what I’m not allowed to say. Some people it’s hard to make friends and all they want to do is try make conversation to someone to be freindly but unfortunately you always have to watch what you say or you just offended someone.


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